One of the giants of the African Continent, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, is no more. The Continent has lost one of its great sons; an outstanding leader in the true sense of the word. Mwalimu, the teacher who taught the African Continent about peace, democracy and unity - Mwalimu, the freedom fighter who became one of the leading commanders for the liberation of Africa. He will be missed by all the peace and freedom-loving people throughout the world, more particularly by us on the African continent.

We want to convey our deepest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and the people of Tanzania.

We are proud as the South African Government to acknowledge the fact that Mwalimu made a valuable contribution to the process of bringing about democracy in our own country. The African National Congress is honoured to have known Mwalimu; to have walked and worked with him for many years. We are proud to have been part of the Tanzanian people; to have shared their lives and benefited from their generosity and - indeed, to have contributed to their well-being in several ways. We will continue to interact and work with them, using as our guide Mwalimu's wisdom and the experience of other African leaders of his generation.

We owe this to Mwalimu's memory. We owe it to Tanzania, the country he led to its independence and fashioned into a beacon of hope for all Africans.

Those who have interacted with great leaders of the world have never hesitated in raising Mwalimu's name as one among giants. He influenced the events that have shaped the history of this century through his skilful leadership and incisive thinking. Indeed, some of his theories and actions will continue to impact on the political perspectives that will dominate debates in the next millennium.

Mwalimu's name permeates through all the significant moments of the development of the continent from its colonial past. As one of the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity, he laid the foundation for the African Continent to start its long and arduous road towards peace and unity. Yes, there are still pockets of conflict and violence on the continent. But, no one can gainsay the fact that the vision of unity promoted by leaders like Julius Nyerere has found resonance in many corners of the African Continent.

Our President, Comrade Thabo Mbeki, has mooted the idea of how we could tap into the collective experience and wisdom of former leaders of the continent. He mentioned a few such leaders including our own internationally acknowledged statesman, Nelson Mandela, and of course, Mwalimu. Indeed, Julius Nyerere was among leaders from the continent who were invited to attend the launch of the African Renaissance Institute recently. He could not attend as he was seriously ill at the time.

But, the idea of identifying former leaders on the continent to inspan into our programme of renewal and development, should be given support.

We sorely need the experience and wisdom of those who have led the African Continent before us, whose experiences were shaped by some of the most trying events of the times and who are tried and tested cadres of Africa's renewal.

When the story is finally told to our children and their children of South Africa's path to her freedom, the names of great leaders like Julius Nyerere will occupy pride of place. Indeed, we owe it to the coming generations of our people to record properly the history of how we attained our freedom on the journey to securing a better life for all our people.

Mwalimu's keen understanding of and support for the freedom struggle in South Africa continued until democracy was achieved. But, his interest in South Africa never ended until his death.

The best way to remember Mwalimu is to continue the struggle to free all Africans from hunger and starvation; from homelessness; from joblessness; illiteracy, conflict and war; from tyranny and from oppression.

The great tree of the African Continent has fallen. But the roots run deep. In conditions of rain, of drought, and of floods, its sprouts will persist until Africa blossoms.

Great Teacher: You shall always be among us. Your noble ideas will live on for many generations.

Madam Speaker, our country stands united with our Tanzanian brothers and sisters in their grief, and when they lay to rest the remains of this great son of Africa, we will be with them in spirit and represented by our President.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa